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Rams-Browns matchup of the day: Thursday

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Posted Nov. 10, 2011 @ 11:52 p.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

Here's a matchup to watch in Sunday's Rams-Browns game.

Browns' running game vs. Rams' run defense

The NFL's worst run defense from a yards-allowed-per-game standpoint squares off against the league's worst rushing offense from a yards-per-carry standpoint.

The Browns are down to their third- and fourth-string tailbacks (Chris Ogbonnaya and Thomas Clayton, respectively) with Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty out with injuries. Ogbonnaya rushed for just 28 yards on 13 carries in the Week Nine loss, with Clayton rushing five times for 10 yards.

"I think they will both play," Browns head coach Pat Shurmur said on Wednesday. "(Clayton will) probably play a little bit more than he did. I think Chris will still have a role on first, second and third down."

The major intrigue surrounding the Browns' running game is whether RS-WR Joshua Cribbs will get some work in the backfield. Cribbs hinted that might be part of the game plan this week, according to The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer.

"I can't give nothing away, but they put something in that's special to me and that's all I can say about that," Cribbs said Wednesday, according to The Plain Dealer.

Cribbs has just one carry this season. He was a dangerous runner in "Wildcat"-style packages earlier in his career, but Shurmur has yet to implement that in his offense. If Cribbs does get more work as a ballcarrier, it will be interesting to see if it's at tailback, a position he hasn't played. He would likely need a crash course in the position to make such a transition. If he doesn't line up at tailback, and if Shurmur doesn't want to use any sort of "Wildcat" sets, then it would seem that end-arounds or reverses would be the most likely way to get Cribbs more involved in the ground game.

The Rams have particularly struggled stopping runs up the middle this season. The Browns, for their part, have had their problems attacking the middle in the ground game. Both clubs have to like these respective matchups. It ought to be interesting.

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